Monterey historic auto races and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance have become a de facto auto show, particularly for luxury-brand manufacturers. Cadillac, over the past few years has used the occasion to debut a new concept car. This year is no different, with the now-SoHo-based brand taking the wraps off the Escala concept at an evening cocktail party in Carmel, California, on the Thursday before the big classic-car show.
Except that this time is different. Previously at Pebble Beach, Cadillac has shown dream machines such as the Ciel four-door convertible from 2011 and the gorgeous Elmiraj coupe from 2013. The Escala, although still presented as a concept car, has its 22-inch tires and wheels more firmly planted on the ground. This is less a flight of fancy than a preview of the new design language from Cadillac.
Although the recently arrived CT6 is currently the brand’s largest and most expensive sedan, there has always been the expectation that a larger, more expensive model would arrive above it to serve as the Caddy flagship. The Escala (the name means “scale” in Spanish) is based on the same Omega platform, but this car is larger in all key dimensions. Versus the CT6, the wheelbase has been stretched by 4.7 inches and the overall length by 6.5 inches. The front track is wider by 2.7 inches, the rear by 2.4 inches. Taki Karras, the Escala’s exterior design manager, also points out the longer dash-to-axle ratio—a key visual metric of luxury-car design.
Cadillac also makes the manic CTS-V.
The Escala also is more powerful. Whereas the CT6 tops out with a 404-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, under the Escala’s extended hood beats a 4.2-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, an engine that is slated to debut in the CT6 and likely will power the production version of the Escala as well, bringing some 500 horsepower to the table in the latter application.
Compared with the radical Ciel and the dramatic Elmiraj, the Escala looks more conventional—although still handsome. One unconventional aspect, however, is that the big four-door is actually a hatchback rather than a notchback sedan. Perhaps the success of the Audi A7/S7 has emboldened Cadillac to brave the pejorative “hatchback” label—or perhaps a production version would revert to a conventional trunk, as the liftover height is uncomfortably high. In the show car, the liftgate opening does not extend down toward the bumper, so the cargo floor rises up to make the loading and unloading of luggage easier.
The rear of the car comes to a point in the center, and the thin-blade vertical taillights—which here extend up onto the tops of the rear fenders—both continue current Cadillac design language. We see a greater evolution at the front, where the wide, mesh grille’s shield shape exactly mirrors that of the Cadillac crest that floats within it. The vertical lighting elements are toned down from recent Cadillac models, and horizontal lighting elements are introduced. Cadillac says the new front-end look is one “that will begin appearing on production models soon.” A highlight of the profile view is a brushed-metal trim piece at the base of the front door that sees its shape repeated in the kick-up of the beltline at the C-pillar.
Inside, a woven wool cloth provides relief from the otherwise monochrome pale-gray leather. The cloth—an unusual choice for a luxury car today—appears on the seatbacks, the door panels, the lower dash, and the rear seats. The upper dash features a layered trio of curved-OLED digital screens in front of the driver; rear-seat passengers have retractable screens in the front seatbacks. Overhead is a panoramic glass roof, and thin A-pillars and the B-pillar-less greenhouse further contribute to the cabin’s airiness.
Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac worldwide, characterizes the Escala as “a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models.” The design language previewed here will begin to appear on production models starting in the late-2018 time frame.